Exploring Dunkeld and the Southern Grampians with Kids

Introducing guest blogger Erin from Australian Mountains to Sea

Dunkeld is a small town located in western Victoria, Australia. It is approximately 300km from Melbourne and is at the foot of the picturesque Southern Grampians.

The Grampians National Park has been a popular family holiday location for many years and, in the past, most have flocked to the tourist town of Halls Gap. In more recent years, Dunkeld has firmly established itself as a holiday destination. Dunkeld boasts a community feel, easy access to the Southern Grampians and central to many other great tourist areas within the region.

This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents

Great things to do in the town of Dunkeld

In the main street, you will find a range of eateries and boutique stores. The Dunkeld General Store sells your everyday essentials, as well as coffee, fresh food-to-go, local produce, wines and craft; as well as, a selection of gourmet products to complete your weekend away. Izzy’s Café has a choice of take away foods, homemade, ready-to-go meals and a selection of hot and cold drinks; you can also dine-in at their newly refurbished café.

Koopman’s Dunkeld serve breakfast and lunch inside the restored Dunkeld Motors building, which is also home to an art gallery of many talented local artists; the artwork is available to purchase. Café 109 serves up meals all day, including dinner. A great location to take the family for a relaxed meal out. Across the road is the Royal Mail Hotel and Parker Street Project (PSP), which is the home of Wickens, the renowned two-hatted restaurant. The courtyard at PSP on a Summer’s day is a great place to take the family, for a gourmet lunch and to sample some local wines, while enjoying views of Mt Sturgeon.

The Old Bakery is a hidden gem, if you don’t know to look for it, you might miss it! Established in 1887, it is a living piece of Dunkeld’s history and one of the only bakeries that still has its original wood-fired scotch oven. Visit the bakery for breakfast, lunch, coffee, freshly baked bread or some delightful pastries.

Only Ewe is a boutique gift and women’s clothing store, best known for its specialisation in Australian made woollen products. Dunkeld is also home to Off The Rails and Gerard Murphy Furniture for those with creative interests, a bookstore and the Dunkeld Museum.

Fun things to do in Dunkeld with Kids

Dunkeld is a very family friendly holiday destination, with lots of great outdoor places to explore. Whatever you do, do not miss the Dunkeld Arboretum – an absolute gem of the town, that is sadly often missed.

From the town centre you can follow Salt Creek walking track past the Dunkeld Caravan Park through to the Arboretum. Wander the track among the beautiful gum trees and enjoy the mountain outlook, around the lake. Walk the labyrinth, ride bikes along the track or play in the newly constructed sandpit. On a nice day, this is a glorious place to explore in Dunkeld.

Popular mountains near Dunkeld

The are three mountains in Dunkeld which locals and tourists flock to for their exercise, to clear their minds and to take in the incredible views of the Southern Grampians region.

Mt Picanniny is the smallest mountain, most family friendly for those who have young kids, taking approximately an hour return.

Mt Sturgeon is the closest mountain to the township and from the car park return will take anything from 2 hours with children.

Mt Abrupt is about a 5-10-minute drive from the township of Dunkeld and offers amazing vistas of the Grampians from the top; the return trip will take anything from 3 hours.

View from Mt Abrupt in the Southern Grampians

Durations of each walk will be dependent on fitness levels and ages of children. If you plan to take the family, you are encouraged to pack snacks, water and a jacket – it can be quite chilly at the top! With young kids, you could make a day of Mt Abrupt, pack a picnic, explore the rocky mountain and enjoy the mountain top views!

Freshwater Lake Reserve

Freshwater Lake Reserve is just a 5-10-minute drive from the township, along Victoria Valley Road. There is free camping available and some glorious views of the Grampians as you walk around the lake. Beware there are no amenities on site. Freshwater Lake is a lovely spot for a picnic, for kids to play in the trees or utilise the campfire available.

Best time to visit Dunkeld

Dunkeld is beautiful all year round, although if you are coming in the winter, be sure to pack your gumboots and something warm!

Dunkeld hosts popular annual events that bring visitors to the town from all over.

  • The Serror Terror is a two-day hiking event held over the long weekend in June and takes you all over the Grampians National Park.
  • Peaks and Trails is a growing and popular trail running event and the 3 Peaks Festival is an outdoor market, held in October.
  • Finally, the Dunkeld Cup literally brings thousands of people to town to experience a country race with a magnificent backdrop.

Day trips from Dunkeld

From Dunkeld, you can do some fantastic day trips, that the whole family will love. Head towards Victoria south-west coast, for just one hour, to Port Fairy. Port Fairy oozes both country and seaside charm and is known for its lovely beaches, great eateries, boutique shopping and historical significance.

Opposite the Mt Sturgeon car park, you will see the Halls Gap Road. Take this road to the Northern Grampians region, marvel at the enormity of the rocky mountains and the landscape surrounding you. There are many great spots along the Halls Gap road to stop and explore, have a bush picnic or go for a hike. Keep an eye out for the Mt William turn off, where you can drive then walk to the highest point in the Grampians National Park.

In Halls Gap you will find loads of great walking trails, cafes, a pub just 3km out of town and Paper Scissors Rock Brew Co in the main street which has a casual atmosphere, outdoor seating and serves great food. Halls Gap has a large playground in the centre of town, plenty of room for a picnic and an ice creamery across the road.

Two very popular walks for families from Halls Gap are The Pinnacle (for the more adventurous) and the Venus Baths Loop. Venus Baths is great for young kids, they will explore for hours, it is also pram friendly, on one side of the loop.

Where to stay in Dunkeld

Dunkeld has a great number of accommodation options, that suit all levels of budgets. There is free camping at Freshwater Lake, the Dunkeld Caravan Park and the Southern Grampians Cottages which are both centrally located.

There are several bed and breakfasts in town as well as out if you are looking for a real country-escape and some peace and quiet.

About the Blogger

I’m Erin from western Victoria in Australia. I am a Mum of two boys and as a family we love to travel and explore the outdoors. We live at the base of the Southern Grampians mountain range and love to rock scramble, hike and chase waterfalls. We also love to discover beaches, swim and explore rockpools.

We look forward to seeing more of Australia and the world together – you can follow along with Erin and her family here:


With thanks to Erin for her contribution to our guest series.  You may also like to read about exploring Melbourne with kids or check out this guide to Lorne if you’ll be exploring the Great Ocean Road.

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